LANCASTER – A Nazi swastika pin has been found on the putting green of the First Church of Christ Unitarian in Lancaster. There is a KKK history in the town and region – but where did the brooch come from and does that mean there were Nazis?
In late 2021, metal detector enthusiasts asked the church for permission to search for metal on the church green, agreeing to donate anything they find to the church. Among all the random coins and jewelry, enthusiasts unearthed a swastika pin – like a brooch – in fair to poor condition.
Church minister Wil Darcangelo had hoped the lapel pin would be “older than the Nazi era knowing that the symbol was primarily a Hindu/Buddhist/Jain symbol of deity”.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
In good condition, a similar antique brooch appears to be a black swastika with a white edelweiss flower and a red jewel in the middle. Edelweiss is the national flower of Germany and only grows in the Alps. According to worthpoint.com, the pin was likely used by a fraternity or sorority and is rare. Even in poor condition, the pin found in Lancaster still has one of its edelweiss flower petals attached and a broken red center.
“I am saddened to know that people sympathetic to the Nazi agenda were present in Lancaster. community at the time who were racist/xenophobic,” Darcangelo said. “Especially since we know there are still a few here even today. They are in my prayers. Like those they despise.
Extremists in the region
There is a history of extremists including the KKK in central Massachusetts. Unlike their southern counterparts who were largely against blacks and other people of color, the KKKs in the northeast were Protestant bigots who disliked Catholics and Jews (or immigrants in general), according to historical archives. The KKK was so well organized in Massachusetts that its numbers exceeded the total number of members in Mississippi and Alabama.
There were KKK meetings in Lancaster in May and July 1924. The July meeting turned into a riot, called the Battle of Ballard Hill.
There were burnings of crosses throughout the region at Easter 1924. In May 1924, fearing disorder, elected officials in Berlin refused to allow the KKK to meet at their town hall. Instead, 100 KKK members gathered in Bolton and were confronted by 400 protesters, who threw rocks at them, causing no injuries. A meeting of thousands of Klansmen on July 8, 1924, in South Leominster, met with more protest.
The KKK was attacked as they left a meeting in a Berlin field, also in July 1924, by young men hiding behind trees and stone walls.
On July 29, tension boiled over at land in Lancaster owned by Charles Schumacher Jr., which is still owned by his great-grandson John Schumacher-Hardy, a 15th-generation Lancaster.
At Schumacher’s farm, 500 protesters carrying sticks and rocks confronted 200 Klan members and besieged them for nine hours. According to Schumacher-Hardy, it was a joint meeting of Lancaster and Clinton members with guests, and the protesters came from Knights of Columbus clubs in the area.
When the riot ended, there were gunshot wounds, a massive police response and the arrest of six men, all charged with disturbing the peace.
Shortly after the meeting began, protesters began throwing rocks, KKK members reportedly breaking tree branches in self-defence and throwing rocks at them. The Klansmen moved their cars to light the field.
A melee occurred from around 9 p.m. until at least 6 a.m., it was reported.
Six men were shot and injured, including a Lancaster police officer; none of the shots proved fatal, and no one has ever admitted or identified who had fired into the crowd. Lancaster Police were assisted by State Police and officers from Leominster, Lunenburg and Clinton.
The protesters were prosecuted as well as Klansman, including Charles Schumacher Jr. Six men from Lancaster, Clinton and Leominster were tried at the Clinton Courthouse, according to reports. Schumacher admitted to firing a shotgun into the air to dispel rioters, loaning a BB gun to another Klansman, and dragging injured Klansmen to his home for safety.
West Berlin Klansman Edward Schardner was called to testify but declined, citing his KKK oath of secrecy. Yet the crowded Clinton courthouse was briefed on how the KKK stopped six waves of attacks in a fight that lasted all night and into morning, it was reported. Judge Jonathan Smith found all six defendants guilty, fining them $15 to $25 each.
Schumacher-Hardy said another KKK meeting was held in Lancaster on August 5 without incident.
But were there Nazis?
“It’s not hard to imagine that this town has included Nazis among the Klansmen in the past,” resident Alise Crossland said in a comment on a Facebook post about the pin.
Darcangelo said he thought the discovery signified “a sad acknowledgment that we once had Nazi sympathizers here in Lancaster”.
But a search of a number of local historical societies, libraries and online sources turned up no signs of Nazis or Nazi sympathizers in the area.
The Clinton Daily Item in June 1940 ran an article stating there was no sign of a fifth column and wrote that the patriotism and loyalty of local innocents was being questioned.
So where could the swastika come from?
“Perhaps after the war Lancaster had some sort of celebration where various German or Nazi flags, patches, pins, etc. were publicly destroyed or burned,” Clinton Historical Society President Terry Ingano said. . a prisoner of war and brought it home as a souvenir and then publicly destroyed it to mark the end of the war.”.
Schumacher-Hardy agreed, saying it could “have been a war trophy that was lost by an American veteran or collector.”
There are no current plans for the pin, Darcangelo said.
“I’m inclined to get rid of it, now that I know what it is,” he said, unless the Lancaster Historical Society wants it as a historical artifact. Heather Lennon, president of the Lancaster Historical Society, said the board should decide.
“It’s an unfortunate reminder of the existence of hate in the world,” Darcangelo said. “But I prefer to see the pin, in its current state of decay, as emblematic of the slow deterioration of hate itself.”